Thursday, September 24, 2009

Poet's Choice (3)

Editors: Paul Engle and Joseph Langland. New York: Time Incorporated. 1962.

Why read it? First the poem. Then the poet’s comment on why it is the favorite poem. The explanation is often as cryptic as the poem. The poets offer comments on the nature of poetry, how the poems originated and the many different reasons that they have chosen that particular poem as the favorite. They also write a great deal in a few words about the process of writing poetry. That alone is reason for the interested reader to become involved.

Sample Quotes and Ideas:

Archibald MacLeish: “Some poems know more about their own business than the man who wrote them and go on thinking about it longer than he ever did.” “I sometimes think the relation between writer and written is reversed here: this poem is writing me.” p. 20.

Alan Tate: “…and I wish I had made it clear, in the poem, what ‘eat dish and bowl’ means and not depended upon the reader’s knowledge of Vergil.”p. 39.

Robert Francis: “Such a word, for instance, as hallelujah. That word suggested another Hebrew one, Ebenezer. With those two words as a starter, I was on my way. Out of these two words grew everything I found to say.” p. 46.

Robert Francis: “Yet in starting to write a sestina I was really going against my deepest poetic convictions. For a sestina is an extreme example of a poem written from the outside in, and my way is to write from the inside out. To encourage a poem as it grows, to grow its own skeleton and skin. Like a living cat. And not to start with the skin, as the taxidermist does, and stuff it out. I am strong for form, but not for forms. Perhaps I should now admit that a poem written the wrong way may sometimes be more successful than a poem written the right way.” p. 46.

Langston Hughes: “I did not consciously compose this poem. It came to me, and I simply wrote it down, and wondered where it came from, and liked it. Possibly I like it because it was not contrived, inception having been outside myself.” p. 47.

Richard Eberhart: “I have a special affection for it, then, because an event in nature immediately produced a poem and because this method of composition is unusual with me, alien to my usual modes of being, thought and feeling, an upwelling into consciousness of relationships having nothing to do directly with experience, but coming out of reservoirs of memory from mysterious promptings, promptings of delicate and strong balances fashioning the created harmonies of poems.” p. 59.

Stanley Kunitz: “As a dramatic lyric, the poem is meant to be read aloud….” p. 66.

EL Mayo: “I remember the writing of this poem because it proved particularly difficult to do. I knew what I wanted, but revision followed revision without any prospect of finality—and then suddenly everything snapped into shape.” p. 69.

EL Mayo: “…most poems are the outcome, at one level or another, of a sort of rapport between the personal feelings of the poet and the spirit of the age in which he lives.” p. 69.

Robert Penn Warren: “…the cathartic value for the poet…has nothing to do with the value of the poem.” p. 78.

To be continued.

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